Column - Let's all take the 'No Kid Hungry' pledge
It's hard to believe that in this richest country on earth, one in four children go hungry on a daily basis.
Child hunger is called the "hidden scourge," mainly because the subject is seldom mentioned by political leaders. Just recall all the presidential debates you've heard in the last 20 years. Did you ever hear even once the subject of hunger? Not likely.
I myself had no idea there were that many children going hungry. I learned that sad fact while watching the Larry King Show one night. King's guest was the fine actor Jeff Bridges, who for many years has been contributing his own money, raising funds and awareness and working hard in an effort to help end child hunger. In 1983, Bridges founded the nonprofit "End Hunger Network" to combat world hunger.
According to a 2009 U.S. Department of Agriculture report, an estimated 17 million American children, almost one in four, struggle with hunger. Many of those children are not literally starving, but they are eating foods so lacking in nutrition that, in time, they will develop physical problems and learning disabilities. The correlation between poor nutrition and inability to learn in the formative years is a well documented tragedy. But, as Bridges emphasizes, that tragedy can be solved. The easiest way is to let all families know food help is available through school-breakfast programs, food stamps, the Women-Infant-Children nutrition program - to name just three.
Bridges and others who are keenly aware of childhood hunger are pushing hard for the No Kid Hungry effort with the goal of ending hunger in the United States by 2015. Organizers are asking everyone to take the No Kid Hungry pledge, which states, "I believe that no child in America should go hungry. By pledging today, I add my voice to the national movement of people committed to ending childhood hunger in America by 2015."
To take the pledge and/or to donate, go to www.nokidhungry.org.
Bridges told King that it would take $8-$9 billion to eradicate childhood hunger. That is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the national budget.
No Kid Hungry is a program sponsored by an organization called Share Our Strength. During the past 25 years, that organization has raised more than $280 million and provided funds to more than 1,000 community programs dedicated to ending childhood hunger.
Charity is not the sole answer to the hunger problem, Bridges noted. Despite the widespread enormity of the problem, Share Our Strength has made some giant strides. It creates public-private partnerships that break down barriers preventing kids from getting the food they need. It funds feeding programs in areas where children live, play and learn. It educates families about nutrition and healthy eating through its Cooking Matters programs. So far, those nutrition-education programs have reached 60,000 families nationwide.
Times are tough enough for adults; they're even tougher for children, who are often overlooked in financial crises. For one thing, the prices of nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables have escalated steadily in the last few years. As politicians squabble about the "big" issues, they are forgetting what ought to be this nation's most-pressing priority - making sure all children get enough to eat.
However, we ordinary Americans can step in to help where politicians fail to go. A contribution of just $1 can provide 10 meals for a child. A contribution of $25 can feed one child enough nutritious meals to last through a month. Please consider signing the No Kid Hungry pledge and making a contribution. Again, the website is www.nokidhungry.org.
Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.